By DAVID WOODING
STRAIT-laced Maggie Thatcher often had her staff in fits of laughter with saucy one-liners – without knowing why.
The three times PM, who died last week, was first to admit she wasn’t a natural wit and never quite grasped a double meaning.
Her dry sense of humour was a nightmare for speech writers who feared she might fluff the punchlines.
But some of her best and most hilarious gags were delivered unintentionally.
Her prim and proper upbringing led to a string of unwitting quips on the world stage which left her aides stifling their giggles.
Most famously, she once paid tribute to her loyal deputy Willie Whitelaw by remarking: “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.”
On another occasion, she was puzzled when guests roared at her after-dinner speech as she described how a distinguished colleague had met his wife while “on the job”.
Troops were close to tears when she made a flying visit to the Falkland Islands after the defeat of the invading Argentine army in 1982.
She was invited to sit in the range-finder’s seat astride a large piece of field artillery.
“Is it safe?” she asked her military hosts before adding innocently: “Or will it jerk me off?”
Mrs Thatcher naively dropped a similar clanger while inspecting garden implements on a flying visit to a hardware shop in Fulham, south west London.
She picked up a large trowel and said: “I’ve never seen a tool as big as that before.”
A journalist recalled: “We all started sniggering and she gave us all disapproving looks, which made it even worse.”
Lady T was a stickler for buying British and tore into journalists who used Japanese tape recorders during interviews.
She even made them open their jackets to check whether their suits had come from Italy or Hong Kong – and would give offenders one of her infamous “hand-baggings”.
Shortly after moving into 10 Downing Street, she posed for pictures with her husband Denis. A brave reporter asked: “Who wears the trousers in this house?”
Quick as a flash, Denis replied: “I do. And I wash and iron them, too.”